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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  February 27, 2014 8:00am-10:01am EST

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the world are seeing extended delays in simply getting through. they already down in the form of resources that you need to do the work that you're doing. why are we sending personnel overseas during a prototype when you're remarkably understaffed right at our own border? >> in general, the more we can put at communism in forward as, last point of departure outside this country, before the terrorists can get on the airplane to fly into this country, the better. i believe that is a homeland security imperative, congressman. ..
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>> to see that as a threat and a security situation to be locked down. and while i think that that perspective is understandable and i think it's borne of a good intent to secure the boarder and secure the homeland, when you look at the facts, we're spending $18 billion a year right now -- unprecedented levels of spending -- we've doubled the size of border patrol in the last ten years, we have or record low northbound immigration attempts, record southbound deportations, and el paso is the safest city in america today four years in a row, actually, bordering on ciudad juarez, what is the largest financial community in the world. san diego is in the top ten
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safest cities, honolulu, another port city, is among the top ten safest cities. so i want to hear you talk about the opportunities at the border. in el paso alone, we have 22 million pedestrian and auto crossings every single year. it's the life blood of our economy, and it's the life blood of who we are as a community. that is in addition to the $90 billion in u.s./mexico trade that passes through therement that trade, that commerce and that human crossing activity support more than 400,000 jobs in the state of texas, more than six million in the united states at large, and yet those ports of entry in el paso, arizona, other parts of the u.s./mention ecoborder are sorely understaffed. mexico border. what's your plan to make sure we have the resources to capitalize on the opportunities at the u.s./mexico border? >> in this shop job as sec -- job as secretary of homeland security, it has been made clear to me that part of my mission is
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to facilitate and expedite trade whether it's on the southwest or border or the northern border, you know? for example, the canadians have talked to me about our bridge crossings in michigan and the importance of building, funding a customs plaza on the u.s. side in michigan. same with texas, with south texas where i was a couple weeks ago. i haven't been to el paso yet, but i hope to go there soon. but it has been stressed to me the importance of as a matter of customs enforcement, facilitating and promoting trade. now, that also depends on congress being willing to fund at the appropriate are levels -- at the appropriate levels our customs plazas, our ability on the u.s. side of a bridge or a land port to be, you know, to build these things. we need congress to authorize and appropriate. so, but i want to work with you on that, and i recognize the importance of promoting trade
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whether it's el paso or detroit or any of our other ports of entry. >> i appreciate that answer, and i'll do my part as a member of congress to make sure that we have those resources there. but even within the existing dhs budget, i just urge you to deploy those resources and assets as intelligently, as effectively as possible to capitalize on those opportunities that we have there. i want to associate myself with mr. barber's remarks earlier about supporting our men and women in the border patrol. they have among the toughest jobs that i can imagine, the level of vigilance required, the terrain they're working within, the encounters that they have to deal with. and so is i also join -- so i also join him in urging you to support mr. chaffetz's bill to make sure we have some fairness and predictability when it comes to pay for members of the border patrol. but i also want to make sure that of we have the appropriate oversight and accountability for law enforcement on border, and i appreciate the tact that you're going to release the cbp's use
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of force policy. i would also ask you to release the police executive research forum's report on cbp's use of force. right now we only know about these use of force incidents anecdotally. i get them in my office regularly, and i also hear far too often from these 22 million bridge cross ors a lack of respect -- crossers, a lack of respect and sometimes abuse at the hands of cbp officers on our border. we need greater oversight and accountability given the missions and the opportunities there at the border. so i'd just ask you to release that. and also as one of the other members of committee said, become more transparent and accountable as an agency. i think that's been a major failing of dhs up until now. >> i will look at this particular report you referred to, congressman, and i agree generally with the importance of
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law enforcement being credible and being transparent in the communities in which they operate. if law enforcement -- and you see this also in the military context -- is viewed with suspicion, is not credible, it undermines the entire mission. >> great. i appreciate that. thank you very much. thank you, mr. chair. >> chair recognizes the chair of the oversight subcommittee, mr. damagen. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thanks for this hearing. secretary johnson, thanks for being here. i'm impressed with what i've seen so far, and i look forward to working with you on an ongoing basis. in your statement you talked about being responsive to inquiries of letters from congress. i just want to bring your attention to a letter to upside secretary worst russ dealing with training videos that have never been answered. i'll make sure my staff gets your guys a copy of that so that it could be answered.
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>> happy to do that, sir. >> thank you. thank you for that because that's part of the oversight function. we can't have hearings, but we can send direct inquiries to the agencies and departments for request of information. i sat here earlier thinking about all the things you're responsible for, and it's sort of overwhelming. border security, immigration, customs enforcement, u.s. cis, maritime and coast security, the coast guard, secret service, law enforcement training, cyber threats, fema and all of the things that our committee deals with. that's a tremendous responsibility that you have to keep this nation safe, and i just want to make sure that the folks watching at home understand the department of homeland security brought 22 agencies together or subagent says under -- subagent says under one umbrella and trying to make sure that all of those operate in a very cohesive fashion. so i pulley understand the challenge finish can fully understand the challenge, and i
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just want to go on the record for that. want to shift gears and talk about something that's on my mind regularly as we talk about immigration reform. because the numbers that were used today roughly 11.5 million, say 12 million illegal immigrants in the united states, roughly 40-49% of those didn't just violate our sovereignty by crossing a border, southern or northern doesn't matter, they actually violated the national trust that we've placed in them, because we gave them a permission slip to come here known as a visa. they had an interview at a consulate or embassy, we have a correct spelling of their name, we've got a picture, probably a fingerprint. we know where they were going in most instances, coming to work or going to school. i get that, that they can travel just about everywhere, but we've got an address where a lot of these folks were going, where they were going to work and where they were going to attend college. and roughly half of the illegals
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in this country overstayed their visa. they didn't just cross a border, we gave 'em a permission slip to come into this country, and they violated our trust. this is low hanging fruit from a customs and immigration enforcement issue. and so the question i have for you is adopt you think that we should -- don't you think that we should work real hard, because the information i have that i.c.e. devotes less than 2% of its investigative resources to investigating these overstays. this isn't chasing a footprint in the desert. don't you think we ought to ramp up that percentage, put more effort in effectively enforcing the immigration laws that we have with regard to visa overstays, either getting them back into legal status be they're still attending college or still gainfully employed, but deal with half these illegals before we take on a whole other avenue of immigration enforcement?
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i'd love to hard your thoughts with regard to these overstays, enforcement policies and dedication of i.c.e. resources to investigating these. >> first of all, i don't know that the number is 40%. 40% has kind of worked into the narrative based on a report that was done some years ago, and it's my understanding that's not a government report. i don't know that it's 40%. >> well, use whatever percentage we want. 20, 25, 30, 15, it doesn't matter to me. it still remains that this is low happening fruit of information we know about these people. we know who they are. so i'll -- >> i do agree that we should correlate resources to the removal of, the way in which we say we ought to prioritize our removals. in my view, as a matter of homeland security we need to prioritize our removals with regard to national security, public safety, border security threats. as a matter of homeland security. if in the category of visa overstays there are those people
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we need to focus on going after those people. >> national security threats. >> public safety threats which involve those convicted of serious crimes and border security threats, you know? people who are recent border crossers who are apprehended many and around the border -- in and around the border, who are repeat crossers and the like, the people who represent threats to border security. i agree entirely with your point that we ought to correlate resources with our priorities. we've got to devote the resources to meet what we say should be the priorities. and my priorities are homeland security, protecting the american people, enforcing our immigration laws, and we need to correlate our resources in that way. >> thank you for that. i'll just remind the committee. seven of the ten hijackers on 9/11 had overstayed a visa, and i yield back. >> chair now recognizes the lady from hawaii. >> thank you. very much, mr. chairman. welcome and aloha, secretary. great of you here with us. you've touched on a lot of different topics that i look forward to being able to address
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that really impact us nationally from cyber threats to domestic drone use and the policies that we needed to come up with as we look at this new technology, duplication of resources, aging cost guard fleet and so on and so forth. i also want to welcome you to come and visit hawaii. i know you've been there before, but to come in this capacity because there's nothing like seeing firsthand the challenges as well as the opportunities that we have that are unique from the rest of the country. from the district 14 coast guard which covers but far the largest sector of any district that the cost guard has responsibility over and the unique implications of what they do on the international front, engagement, diplomacy, the exclusive economic zones that they patrol. it's really quite impactful, what they're responsible for, and how they have done so well with such little resources. also just to touch on the portal
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that exists in our state, both the airportal, the -- air portal really being the gateway between asia and the united states as well as the maritime ports. since 1996 we've had two international airports in the state of hawaii, the primary which is the honolulu international airport and the kona international airport. ko to na was able to accept fights, and -- flights, and we had customs and border patrol operating from there up until 2011. and there is a situation i know you're familiar with and that we're trying to remedy. the cbp had stated, basically, that the facilities at the kona airport were insufficient in 2011. the airport facility staff sought feedback from cbp in 2012, were given a book of willinglations -- 295 pages -- that was dated in 2006, told to
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look through it and update the facility. the following year they were given an updated book in 2011 said, oh, well, this is the updated version. i think our folks on the ground have been really proactive in trying to make sure that we're able to meet cbp's standards and are requesting a five-year exemption so that we can continue to operate as we were up until 2011 which is important from an economic perspective, but also from a security perspective. anything were to happen at the honolulu international airport, that we have another gateway, and we have another facility there. so i wonder if you can comment on the status of that request that's supported by mayor on the ground swls by the governor? >> i have your letter in this regard. i probably will get myself into trouble by saying that i've been to kona airport, and it is probably the most pleasant airport experience i have had in a very long time.
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it is a very -- i also, i recall that when you could fly from kona to the mainland -- >> yep. >> and i don't think -- in the early '90s, and i'm not sure you can do that anymore. >> you can. >> and i know the burden of being on a multi-hour flight to honolulu, and then you've got to change planes and fly to kona. so i know the inconvenience of that. so i'd like to see us work with local airport officials to try to get to a place where you can have an international arrivals capability. i'm, you know, i'm -- you make a good point that if you lose one, you don't have a second. so i'd like to see us try to work together on that. i do believe, however, that we can't do something that's going to potentially compromise aviation security, border patrol security.
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and so i am personally familiar with the kona airport. happy to try to work with your constituents, local officials in this regard to get there with the concern for security. >> thank you. i appreciate being able to work with you on that and understand that the private sector is also very much invested in helping to bring this about. awe plied for reimbursable agreement was denied by cbp and hope to become one of the other cities that will be approved at some point in the future. i want to touch quickly on airline fees. with the budget that was passed recently, some of these fees that directly impact airline travel were increased in part to help pay for cbp, to help pay for tsa. i'm going to be an advocate here for the noncontiguous states, hawaii and alaska, where air travel is, essentially, our only option. this is not an area that is a
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luxury, but one that is essential for business, for health care, for education and look forward to working with you on seeing how we can -- as has been done in the past -- make sure that these two states are considered differently. >> i have your bill in this regard. i've read your bill, and, you know, i'm interested in studying it further. >> thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> chair recognizes the gentleman from utah, mr. chaffetz. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you and congratulations, mr. secretary. i look forward to working with you. >> thank you. >> i think you properly pointed out in your testimony that people are your greatests a set. -- greatest asset. one of the lawyers of concern that i have is how do we do background checks on the personnel. the overwhelming majority of people are good quality people. i do have questions and concerns, as i highlighted in a letter more than two weeks ago, about your current chief of staff, mr. christian marone. when and where did you first meet him?
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>> first of all, i have your letter. you asked that i respond by the 26th, which is today, and i will be responding today. >> thank you. >> in a timely fashion. i first met mr. marone in early 2009 at the department of defense -- >> dud, was there a -- did, was there a background check conducted on mr. marone before the appointment you made to his being chief of staff? >> you mean chief of staff for dhs. >> yes. >> yes, to the best of my understanding, there was. i also know him for five years and know his qualities, and i'm glad i hired him. >> did you -- so there was a background check. did you review that background check? >> not myself, no. >> who did read it? >> the appropriate officials, i'm quite sure. my understanding is that the background check was quite thorough which included matters of of public record from fumo trial which is what your letter refers to. >> did the white house review
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it? >> as far as i know, they did. >> were there any -- >> as is the standard practice. >> did it reveal any concerns? >> mr. marone's was viewed extensively including the matters of public record. i have every reason to believe that it was thorough, and we hired him, and i'm glad we did. he's doing an excellent job for the department. >> who conducted the background check? >> i could not tell you that, sir. of. >> you aware of any court judgments against mr. marone? >> not sitting here right now, no. >> when did you become aware of the trial involving pennsylvania state senator vincent fumo? >> in 2008. >> did you -- when did you first become aware of christian marone and his testifying in the trial involving vincent fumo? >> in 2009. >> dud you review or are you
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aware of the city of philadelphia's presencic review -- forensic review and financial investigation into three of the entities that mr. marone was involved and ebb gauged? -- engaged in? >> not specifically, no, sir. but i would like to say that i hired mr. marone because he was working for robert gates in the front office of the secretary of defense. those two individuals are demanding scrupulous people who expect the highest of -- mr. marone impressed me for his administrative organizational skills, his ability to put together his budget properties and his ability to identify inefficiencies. i hired him at dhs to do the same there. he's doing an excellent job. he is doing the job that i think members of congress would want us all to do for the department. >> were you aware when you select police department marone to be your chief of staff at homeland security that he made personal use of monies from
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tax-exempt charities? >> i was generally aware of his public testimony. it was highly publicized, and it concerned events 12-17 years ago. i'm more focused on the last five years when he's worked many national security. >> were you aware when he was hired that at one tomb he secured if writing approval for the retention of a private investigator to, quote-unquote, stoop on then-mayor of philadelphia ed rendell? >> as i said, his employment by senator fumo12-17 years ago when he was in his early 20s is a matter of public record. it was highly publicized. and anybody who knows christian marone knows that when he came out of college 12-17 years ago, he worked for senator fumo to. and if you don't, you could pirg that out by spending -- figure that out by spending six seconds on the internet. >> that's exactly my concern, he's been engulf inside a
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variety of controversy. have you reviewed this e-mail from april 21st, it's back in 19 t 8, but concern about the department must change its practice of hirings referring to the philadelphia police department where he says, quote: the end result has been the skipping over of qualified white candidates and the hiring of minorities with criminal records. he wants, he advocate cans changing the city charter and, again, goes on to read -- i'm give you the -- i'll give you the full e-mail be you haven't seen it. quote: the result is an uneducated, unskilled and unqualified department of minority officers. i would think that this would cause concern in addition to all the pluck things that are out there -- public things that are out will about mr. fumo. i would encourage you to look at the public record. i do hope to chat with you. i was disappointed when i asked if i could come see you and personally talk about this, i was told, no, i couldn't do that. >> i actually was told that you wanted to talk to me, and i said, yes, i'm happy to talk to the congressman, but for some
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reason you were unavailable. and i'm happy to talk to you further about issue. >> i would love to come sit down with you and talk to you about it. i have great concerns about this. >> may i respond, sir? >> yes, secretary. >> congressman, i'm, i'm focused on trying to make the department of homeland security or a more efficient and effective place for the benefit of the public, for the benefit of the taxpayers. i know mr. marone since 2009 when he worked more robert gates, and secretary gates held him in the highest regard. i hired him to be our chief of staff because of his organization to -- organizational administrative skills over last five years that had been demonstrated to a lot of people. and since he has come to the department of homeland security, my expectations for him have been, in fact, exceeded. this is a man who has three young children, he's married, he's at work at five a.m., he is
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streamlining our organization, he is making the department of homeland security a more efficient place, he is putting together a budget process, something that people on this committee and in this congress have been after us to do more some reasons. he is doing an excellent job for the benefit of the public and the taxpayer. >> and, mr. chairman, i appreciate that, but three of the entities he was involved with, the inspect general of the city of of philadelphia said was fraudulent, misrepresented, misspent money and overspent some $5 million plus that they want to get back in the city of philadelphia. that's the concern. >> the gentleman's time has expired. we have ten members left. the secretary has agreed to stay until 12:15, so i would ask unanimous consent that all members limit their questions to three minutes. so we can accommodate all the members. gentleman from california, mr. swalwell. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you, mr. secretary, for being here today and welcome. we do look forward to your leadership. >> thank you. >> quick question about the
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urban area security initiative program known as uasi. the department develops a rusk score for uasis by looking at population, military assets, critical infrastructure, etc. but some uasis fund additional counties in neighboring areas that have close economic and military ties that are in the commute areas. for example, in the bay lawyer where i'm from -- bay area where i'm from, san francisco, we have five of -- we have 12 counties, but five are not included in our urban areas initiative grant. and we are wondering and hoping if the department can work with us to consider other assets and population and cultural and economic ties to bring into the bay area's footprint some of these surrounding counties, because they do include travis air force base, the defense language institute and a number of other important assets. >> i'm very -- i'm familiar with
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the bay area and all that it includes. i've spent considerable time in the bay area. i'm happy to take a look at this issue and work with you more on it. >> great. second question, with respect to immigrationen forcement priorities -- enforcement priorities, i know being a former prosecutor that how you classify different crimes is important, and right now 72% of individuals removed were convicted of level i or level ii offenses. level i to fence can include an aggravated felony, and a level ii offense could include multiple misdemeanors which also could be driving without a license which, of course, if an undocumented person is here, they would not be able to obtain a license. i want to make sure that we are focusing on removing the most serious and violent offenders and not necessarily breaking up
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families, especially my concern being a former prosecutor was people would commit crimes that were -- we'd call it a crime for driving without a license, but up until just a couple months ago in california an undocumented person could never receive a license. so will you focus on more violent individuals when we prioritize removals? >> i'm committed to -- and i am continuing a continual evaluation and reevaluation of our prosecution priorities and insuring that we are operating and acting in accordance with those. so it's something that i'm going to continually look at. >> great. and with that, mr. chair, i'll yield back the balance of my time. and, again, thank you so much, mr. secretary. we look bard the to working with you. >> chair recognizes the chairman of the transportation subcommittee, mr. hudson, from north carolina. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and, mr. secretary, thank you for being with us to today. i'm extremely concerned and upset about the cost, overall
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costs and the delays of the new department of homeland security headquarters at st. elizabeth campus. the cost has now ballooned to something like $4.5 billion. a completion date's moved out from 2015 to 2026 and, frankly, i just fail to see how this is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars, to spend kind of money for a headquarters and just really disappointed in the way it's played out. you know, iens -- i understand this is a very difficult process. i understand the command and control concerns of having your agency scattered all across the region. but to put this in perspective, the world's tallest building only cost a billion dollars and only took a fraction of the time to build and, frankly, i think the way we're going about this by trying to take these historic buildings that are crumbling and trying to bring them up to speed and build a facility is the wrong way to go. i'm a history major, so i'm trying to contemplate or even comprehend this type of money.
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you talk about $4 billion, and it's a quarter of the amount of money we spent to rebuild japan after world world war ii, and it's three years longer. i was doing some math, and $4 billion, if you were to stack dollar bills, would be as tall as a thousand empire state bullings. this is an incredible amount of money for a headquarters when we've got so many other needs in homeland security and other thing, when we're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. and i realize decisions were made before your tenure and, frankly, before i got here. and so my question to you is, will you be willing to work with us, can you go back to the drawing board and let's come up with a better plan that doesn't cost us $4.5 billion to meet the needs of the department? >> i have asked my folks to work with gsa on a plan going forward. my general observations about st. elizabeth, first of all, it's a wonderful place.
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the coast guard's headquartered there now. it's a terrific place. i am envious, but i will probably never work there. from my pentagon experience, i do believe there is value for the, you know, one team, one mission message if you have all the components in one headquarters. i've seen that at the pentagon, in the e-ring, you've got do to d, army, navy, air force, marine corps all in the same square footage. and there's value to that. and i think that the morale of dhs, unity of the mission, that emphasis will go be a long way if we could get to a headquarters. i also believe we ought to finish what we started, you know? we're investing a lot of money in this project, and there's a certain wisdom to finishing what you start. and the question becomes the timeline pursuant to which you finish i. and so we've got some
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years ahead of us. but i've asked my folks to work with gsa to sort of -- i have some of same questions you do. >> well, i appreciate that. i know i'm out of time, but finish what you started. if you're in the muddle of a huge mess, you stop dugging, and we're -- digging. i would just say we need to look at starting over. we could build a skyscraper up on that mountain and put the whole government in it for that kind of money. let's look at a new plan, but with i look forward to working with you. >> mr. chairman? >> i apologize. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, just want to take you back to the northern boarder and security. i represent buffalo and the peace bridge connects buffalo to southern op tear owe which is -- ontario which is a population center of eight million people. >> sorry i couldn't be there monday. >> what's that? >> sorry i couldn't be there monday. >> you were missed, but it was a good event, and we're making progress. it's the second busiest northern board or cross, $40 million in trade crosses the bridge every year.
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in previous hearings here on hezbollah, which is a shia terrorist organization bent on jihad, it was disclosed that hezbollah has a presence if many north america including 15 american cities, in two major cities in canada. and the post-9/11 era the one thing that we know clearly is terrorists seek to destruct and kill, but they also seek to disresult our way of life. so they seek out high impact targets. around the peace bridge we have not only the peace bridge, as i said, second busiest northern border crossing, but also niagara falls, a destination for some 20 million visitors every year. high impact project. the niagara power project produces the largest, the most hydroelectricity in all of new york state, high impact target. toronto, an international city,
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high impact target. and earlier last year a terrorist plot was thwarted that was targeting a passenger train from niagara falls to new york city. so i just wanted to make you aware of that and get your thoughts on it quickly. thank you. >> thank you for that, congressman. i am aware that some of the most serious border threats can be threats to the northern border. they are of a different character and kind from the threats on the southwest border. and i appreciate that. i also recognize the importance of facilitating trade at places like the peace bridge, and i know that you and senator schumer and others have been very focused on that, and i congratulate you for those efforts. the northern border is one i expect to get to very soon in my travels so i can study this issue further, and i agree with your concerns regarding security. >> thank you. with that, i'll yield back. >> i thank the gentleman for
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yielding back time. chair now recognizes the gentleman from pennsylvania. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you, mr. secretary, for coming here today. as was noteed earlier, today is the 21st anniversary of the 1993 world trade center bombings as you well know. mahmoud -- [inaudible] is one of the terrorists who perpetrated this attack. he overstayed a tourist visa and received am nsse when come -- amnesty when comprehensive immigration reform was passed in 1986. he claimed that he was a cab -- he was really a cab driver, but he claimed to be a seasonal agricultural worker. the only thing he ever planted in america was a bomb. terrorists in this country need to find a way to remain here legally and not be deported. it is possible and likely that there are people in this country illegally who have connections to radical groups in the middle east.
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secretary johnson, my question is that employees within the dhs say that they are pressured to rubber stamp citizenship and visa applications and lack the resources to adequately investigate ap applicants. i was a mayor and am very aware of what's involved in doing criminal background checks. if we do not conduct face-to-face be interviews in these background checks, how can we be with sure that we're not going to legalize individuals who have connections to radical groups in the middle east as any part of any immigration reform that's being discussed here? you know, again, i've seen the other side of illegal immigration. i know we talk a lot about, you know, the good people who are here just working, but, you know, i've seen the criminal aspect and the drug dealers. how are you going to separate salt from sugar if we're not going to do face-to-face interviews and investigate the backgrounds of these people in their country of origin?
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>> first of all, congressman, thank you for that question. when it comes to counterterrorism, i don't think i take a back seat to anybody, and i think my track record or in national security demonstrates that. i am most concerned about identifying individuals of suspicion who have terrorist motives in this country or who want to come into this country. regarding the complaint that some may feel pressure to rubber stamp a visa application, i've heard this before. it's something i've asked about. i've asked my folks to look into it. i'm interested in the subject, and it's something that i'm willing to engage with your office about so that we can both understand the nature -- >> could you address the face-to-face interviews? how are we going to conduct background check on any immigration reform without doing those type of very, very time-consuming -- >> i have asked the same question.
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so -- >> i'd like to work with you, if we can. i'm very concerned. >> yes. >> thank you. >> chair now recognizes the gentleman from nevada. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'll be brief. mr. secretary, thank you for being here today. earlier this week i had the opportunity to meet with my sheriff from clark county as well as our fire chief and 12 local first responders from agencies throughout southern nevada. during this meeting, they expressed concern that the current risk assessment model does not factor in considerations that are unique to tourism-centered locations such as las vegas and that the model seems to be moving more to a response and recovery approach and not as much a focus on prevention. the attorney general, eric holder, who has visited this southern nevada fusion center considers it to be the model for
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how agencies should be working together. the officials with whom i met believed that they were not sufficiently involved in the risk evaluation process and that fee pa did not take -- fema did not take advantage of their local, per tease as first responders -- expertise as first responders. now, i know these concerns apply to other cities throughout the country beyond las vegas. in the last year, including places like orlando and new orleans who have also fallen off the uasi list. but i also know that you've inherited this model. so as you lay the foundation for this new department of homeland security under youred administration -- your administration, you would i would like to ask for your commitment to work with me and other colleagues on addressing issues with the risk assessment model that does not adequately factor the unique characterizations and needs of
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tourism-based economies like the one i represent. and i want to personally invite you out to our community to meet with our fusion center representatives as well as the public and private sector community who have concerns about the fact that we've moved away from this focus on prevention. and i want to ask if you will review that model going forward and if you will talk me up on my invitation to come to las vegas. >> you're correct that i've inherited the model, but i now own it, so it's mine. and i've heard this issue before and not just from congressional representatives in nevada, and i am a willing to -- i am willing to review it, work with you on it to make sure we've gotten it right. i understand the concerns around potential threat to tourism. so i get that.
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>> thank you. and, again, i'd like to -- >> and i would welcome the opportunity to visit nevada again. >> thank you. yes. the fusion center is a great place and, again, i think it's a mod el, as the attorney general, eric holder, has said for how local, state and federal agencies, public, private entities can work together to proactively meet our security needs. thank you -- >> gentleman from pennsylvania, mr. perry, is recognized. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, welcome. and congratlations, you've got a tough job. recently, a drone apprehended a north dakota man after a dispute with some cattle. it's my understanding the krones are used to assist in the apprehension of illegal immigrants who cross the border. not for american citizens. also in 2014 we appropriated almost a billion dollars towards cbp's office of air and maritime which includes unmanned aircraft operations for the robust airborne intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance to extend the reach of cbp's
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drug interdiction and border security operations. not to indict you for the sins of the past and your predecessor, but there were often cries that the department didn't have enough money, didn't have the funds to carry out its mission, and i'm wondering if, two with hungs, if this is going to -- two things, if this is going to continue, the use of dhs drones for law enforcement regarding american citizens, and if it does and if it's, then shouldn't we consider the budget in that regard and, you know, are you really that short in funds if you're using the asset that has been appropriated for the department for a specific reason and then is used elsewhere for local law enforcement? and hen how do you, are you going to that policy, and how do you determine -- i mean, maybe the community i represent is interested in using a dhs drone for law enforcement, but how do we get in the queue then? just like to get some of your thoughts. >> my general comment is this: i
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think that surveillance, including aerial surveillance, is very important for border security. border security is one of my missions. >> sure. >> and i want to be sure as we go forward with this technology that we are also providing adequate assurances, safeguards, approximates when it comes to the proves of our citizens -- the privacy of our citizens who live in and around the border. i want to be sure we further refine our policies if that regard if we're going to continue to conduct surveillance along the border. with regard to your specific question about uses for law enforcement and funding, i'd have to get back to you on that. but my general view is that there is an important need for surveillance for purposes of border security, and that's my primary -- >> and i agree with you, and i don't want to interrupt you, but i've got just a few moments left. the washington times reported that dhs had lent border drones
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out to local state and federal agencies hundreds of times, so i just want to -- and so that's domestic, that's surveillance of american citizens. is it generally your theme or something that you would accept that you would continue in that regard? and i'm asking from privacy standpoint, from a legality standpoint and from a funding standpoint, is the department going to continue to do that? >> look, my principal -- my priority is border security. that's part of the homeland security mission. that's my priority. if i have surveillance technology that congress has funded and given to me for that purpose, that's my priority. >> for americans or for people on the border that are -- >> for border security -- >> only -- >> for illegal border crossings. i can't say solely. there may be some instances where for a very important law enforcement are objective we might support some local law enforcement's efforts at drug trafficking or something of that
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nature. so i wouldn't rule that out. but the principal reason they are there is border security. >> gentleman's time's expired. gentle lady from new york, clark. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman, and welcome, mr. secretary. i'm going to just give you my questions and then have you respond given the time constraint. it's good to hear that you support the legislation. it's my understanding, however, that dhs is currently engaged in a working group whose recommendations will be coming out in may. and so i just want to give, get your feedback as to whether you think it's, it would be great for us to be informed by what the working group comes out with as we move forward to bring forth legislation. i also want to raise the issue of personal, personnel surety. this is the direction that nppd is going with components of cfab's raises some issues of
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longstanding concerns of this committee. lack of standardization and harmonization in the area of personal surety rumors across critical infrastructure sectors. if you would address that. and then finally, a comment. i wallet to applaud you on your -- i want to applaud you on your commitment to comprehensive immigration reform and add my voice to encourage you to prioritize those who war looking at in -- we're looking at this networks of -- in terms of their immigrant status when we're looking at removals. if we can drill down into the agency to look at that cat gore sawtion, because i believe that comprehensive immigration reform is inevitable. the the status quo just can't hold. but we're also dealing with the fragment talkings of families -- fragmentation of families and often times the bread winners of those families. having said that, i look forward to your responseer is. >> yes, ma'am. ..
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border threats, it's a fluid situation. you have to continually reevaluate it, and that's what i'm doing. i'm sorry that i forgot your second question. >> it was about the personal surety program. right now we are dealing with an issue of background checks, several agency and redundancy of that.
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would you give us -- >> very interested in achieving greater efficiencies, at the directive i've given to my staff to look for. whether it's with regard to background checks or a number of other items. >> thank you. >> mr. brooks from indiana. >> thank you, mr. secretary for being here, and sitting here for even longer you expected. in the past two budget cycles, the president proposed consolidating several of the homeland security grant programs, administered by fema into a national preparedness grant program. but that request has been denied and a bicameral, bipartisan way because they were never in the details provided as to how this is going to affect our state and local partners. and we are still waiting and have been waiting to hear what fema propose with respect to consolidating these very important grant programs. i'm curious whether not using the language, whether or not the
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administration is planning on submitting this consolidated grant program once again? i have one other quick question for you. >> i'll have to get back to on that one. >> i will just let you know it is been met with much opposition by both sides, both chambers, and would expect it to receive the same response as presented in the same way. we also, in showing the emergency preparedness response communication subcommittee, we just held a hearing recently on the bio terrorist threat facing the country. you may or may not be aware but the weapons of mass destruction center issued a report card that showed that we in this country received grades of a large number of d and f in preparation of our bio terrorism threat. would like to know from one of the recommendations out of the 112th congress was at the next
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generation three system that was proposed for detecting bioterrorism exceeded costs almost three times, $5.8 billion in the lifecycle for what's called generation three, the bio watch program. and did not know if you've been yet briefed on the bio watch program, the analysis of alternatives and whether not you are aware that our country really is lacking in its preparedness and its response for bioterror attack? >> the bioterror threat is a part of the homeland security mission. it's on my watch, i've been briefed generally on the bioterror concerns that we all have, and agree that this is got to be a real priority in a cost effective way. and i'm happy to work with you, further the dialogue on this, and make sure we address this in
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a cost efficient, effective way. >> i just might make a suggestion that came out during this hearing, that there is currently no one singular person that has his or her mission in department of homeland security to be responsible for bioterror. and i would encourage you to look at that. there have been those positions in past administrations. there currently is not that in this administration. >> the gentlelady's time has expired. >> thank you, mr. secretary. we are in the process of fixing these massive flood insurance premium increases around the country, and we are getting some pushback from fema interns what they can and can't do and i just wanted to get you come to ask you to commit to ensuring that fema implements all aspects of the legislation as soon as possible, as soon as it is
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signed into law by the president, passed by both chambers. so can you commit to doing that? >> yes, sir. >> second, i would move the tsa's use of small businesses. usually it's difficult because of small businesses didn't have the money and expertise to invest in the specific technologies, but they are there and tsa has failed to use them. in fact, they just awarded a $68 million contract to a company just as a small business is about to be certified and able to do that. so can you commit to us to ensure that, to put pressure on tsa to use small businesses? >> i would encourage all of my components to look at the most effective and efficient way to contract out services. my general view is that big is
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not necessarily better. i would rather have somebody who is more effective, is cost efficient, is, you know, a little hungry and is looking to fulfill my mission in a cost effective, efficient way. big is not necessarily better. >> and i would just ask you to look at specific instance of the business that is nearing certification, the fact that i think we may have contracted out all of opportunity for them without taking into account the fact that they could be included. the other thing i would follow up with, conclude with, is coast guard reauthorization and the fact that i will publicly stated on the record that in the aftermath of both katrina and rita, watching the coast guard and what they do and how they did it, how they're certainly a key component to homeland security. and i would just urge that we
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are, that we stake our claim to jurisdiction and we make sure that legislation reauthorization would come before us and have your commitment to support us on, on that. >> well, i'm very focused on coast guard recap position at the moment. i'm told that the coast guard is the most aged fleet vessels in the world. i don't know whether that's true or not but that's what i'm told. i think it's time for re- capitalization, and something i'm focused on and i appreciate the support we been given from congress thus far. >> thank you and i will yield back the balance. >> on that note let me just say i intend to offer coast guard reauthorization bill. with that last but not least, the judgment from mississippi. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, secretary johnson for being here today. i want to highlight an issue that is related to fema, hurricane katrina, hurricane sandy and other storms that may have flown under your radar so far center confirmation. i'm talking about flood insurance.
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this rising cost and the multiple shortcomings of fema to get the flood mapping or premium rates right. there are countless instances where fema has used in accurate or outdated data concerning land elevation and landscape features, a dozen cases data that is decades old. much of this is detailed in the 2008 gao report. the house is working on h.r. 3370, the homeowner flood insurance affordability act. this bill will provide relief to homeowners went to great efforts and expense and followed all the rules to bill back after storm such as hurricane katrina and cindy. this bill will prevent fema from changing the rules and punishing those people when fema updates their flood maps. i urge my college to support h.r. 3370 when it hits the floor, hopefully next week. while h.r. 3370 will go a long way to provide relief, we still need to ensure that fema is using good science and rating methods. which is second to, i know you're relatively new to your post but this is a critical priority which needs to be addressed.
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because fema fall under your purview as head of dhs i'm curious have you been made aware of the flawed and outdated form of fema has been using for bringing ratesetting? ratesetting? are you whether what fema faulty mapping practices are directly affecting the severity of rate increases for homeowners? >> well, first of all, i think the overall goal for us in the executive and congressional branches is that we maintain going forward a solvent flood insurance program for the american people. that's the overarching priority. i am aware of discussions, disagreements concerning the maps. i was in one as recently as two days ago with a certain governor who would raise concerns about the maps. i do know that when we adopt the maps, there is an opportunity for public key merely comment on the maps and an appeal process so that local communities can raise concerns with the
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techniques that we accused. that process is built into the law and i would encourage local communities that have concerns to raise those in the process. >> mr. secretary, i appreciate that. the bill that's going forward in the house right now, it's a nationwide bipartisan issue. it's affecting homeowners, affecting communities, it's deteriorating property values picked just in my district alone we are seeing foreclosures because rates have gone from $1000 to $11,000. we can get into the unintended consequences of bigger waters but this bill we will be introducing is paid for, it helps lead to become solvent, but it does it in a compassionate manner by not punishing those of already played by the rules at fema and the local governments. i look forward to working with you on that. i yield back. >> mr. secretary, let me just say thank you for your generosity with time. i look forward to working with
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you on our priorities, that i know we share together. members may have additional questions in writing. we ask that you respond to those. without objection the committee now stands adjourned. [inaudible conversations] >> [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> the head of the federal reserve janet yellen will testify on capitol hill about the economy and u.s. monetary policy. live coverage from the senate banking committee begins at 10 eastern on c-span3. you can join the conversation on twitter and facebook. >> i think there are some myths out there. i think people think the maraschino cherry is some miraculous to preserve product,
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and it's really not. it's no different than like a set of pickled cherry and the prime process is no different than the types of making line. so really it's, i wouldn't call it a healthy product but i would call it something that's a tasty treat. >> what you see here is cherries in various stages of process. the cherries that come in even a we put them in water they will still have brian in the fruit and so they will go through an extensive watching -- watching to get the sulfur and the calcium salt back out of the food. the practice of making maraschino is basically you're taking a brine fruit and soaking it in a progressively stronger and stronger sugar and color solution to so over the course of that schedule you see the color intensity but as the sugar content picks up. you can see here's some fruit that is very early in the
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process. it's lightly colored. into a much dr. koh that it is. that's much farther along. kind of you get an idea on a normal day you will see yellow, pink, deep red. and it's just that cycle of the infusion and where it sat in the process. >> this week in booktv in american history tv look behind the history and literary life of salem, oregon, saturday at noon on c-span2 and sunday at 2 p.m. on c-span3. >> president obama called on lawmakers to pass a four year, $2 billion bill to improve the nation's transportation infrastructure. the measure which the president focused on yesterday in minnesota will dry part of its money by overhauling the tax code. from st. paul, this is 25 minutes. >> please welcome you secretary of transportation and vinny fox
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-- anthony foxx. [applause] >> hello, st. paul how are you all feeling? it's great to be with you this afternoon. and it is a privilege to warm the stage for president barack obama. [cheers and applause] >> this marvelous, beautiful building is one reason why st. paul is so unique. [applause] and we are here today to celebrate the transportation vision you have, as was the program that helps make it
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possible, tiger. your vision is unique, and together we have helped you do realize the vision you have for st. paul, and the greater st. paul area. as we travel around our great nation, it is clear that so many communities like saint paul also had the vision. and i can also tell you that a big portion of our national to-do list still remains unfunded. five years ago this depot would've been on your list and would've likely stayed on that list for years. like thousands of projects nationwide, it would have sat there collecting dust and becoming even more extensive every year we waited. but part of the reason for this is that projects at the local level have traditionally been really hard to secure funding
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for. at least that's the way it was until five years ago. five years ago the president signed the american recovery and reinvestment act. [applause] you have heard of it. it set aside the first $1.5 billion for program that woulwould fund the countries worthiest transportation projects, and we called it tiger. and what it has done is nothing short of game changing. tiger has enabled communities to dream again, to help make projects happen. projects that would've been difficult if not impossible otherwise. in los angeles, for example, support for their needed about a
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mile of railroad track laid down so they could transport goods faster from ships to the shores. tiger made that happen. near where i'm from in north carolina, there was a bridge on the i-85 corridor which carried tremendous amounts of freight, but it was considered a worse bridge in the entire state. tiger provided funding to help get that bridge repaired. and to say nothing of the building that we are gathered into day right now, because tiger played a big role in restoring this depot, too. [applause] for five years we've seen tiger investments like these translate into more jobs, better economies, and a higher quality
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of life all across america in all 50 states. there will be a sixth round of tiger this year. [applause] and i want to give a shout out to members of congress who also held naked possible, like senator patty murray, further bipartisanship and their courage. -- help make it possible. you should help projects like this one for proving that tiger can work and create jobs. but most of all, most of all you should put your hands together for the man who is about to get behind this podium. [cheers and applause] because, because when he steps up here, we are all about to take another step towards a
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faster, safer, stronger america. ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to introduce the president of the united states. [cheers and applause] ♪ ♪ hello, st. paul. [applause] it is good to be back in minnesota. [applause] >> we love you. >> i love you back. that's what i came here. good to see you. although, can i just say that when we got off the plane,
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secretary foxx, who is from north carolina, turned to me and he said, this is the coldest i've ever been in my life. [laughter] now, we were only out there like a minute, which goes to show how soft these folks from north carolina are when it comes to the weather. [laughter] [applause] i, on the other hand, and from chicago. [applause] i walked off those stairs and i was like, this is balmy, this is great. [laughter] february in minnesota, can't beat it. cannot beat it. now, in addition to secretary foxx comply want to -- give him a big round of applause for that introduction.
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[applause] you've got to champion for the people of minnesota who are here today. you've got representative betty mccollum. [applause] and representative keith ellison. [applause] you've got your mayor, chris coleman, in the house. [applause] the new mayor of minneapolis, betsy hodges, is he or. [applause] and my great friend, who actually told i was running for president before i knew i was running for president, r. t. rybak. love that name. where he is r. t.? [applause] now, i want to thank everybody who showed me around union depot and gave me a preview of this new light rail line. it is fantastic.
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[applause] and i also just want to say, even though he is not here today, i want to say to everybody how michelle and i have been keeping in our thoughts and prayers one of the great americans that we know, as well as a great minnesotan, walter mondale. [applause] now, like millions of americans, i've spent some time with minnesotans lately because i was watching the olympics. [laughter] minnesota since 19 athletes to the games. [applause] that's tied for second most of any state, and they did us all proud. it is not shocking that minnesotans might be pretty good at the winter olympics. [laughter] what is ethically interesting is that, once again, the tiny town
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of warroad prove that it is really hockeytown, u.s.a., thanks to t. j. oshie and gigi marvin, who we are just so proud of. and tj to shoot up against the russians i must say i enjoyed a lot. i tweeted at him about it. [applause] so we spent some time over the last few weeks on hockey, but i'm not here to talk about hockey. either way, i cannot play hockey. [laughter] i grew up in hawaii. we do not have hockey in hawaii ass but admitted -- [laughter] helping create new jobs and new opportunities for every american. we are at the moment when our economy is growing. our businesses have created about 8.5 my new jobs the past four years. unemployment is at the lowest it's been in over five years. in minnesota it's lower than it's been in six and a half years.
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[applause] and by the way, come you got a great governor who i served with in the senate, mark dayton, is helping to make that happen to. [applause] so in a lot of ways things are looking up here but in some ways the trends that have been battering middle-class families for a long time have gotten even starker. because those at the top are doing better than ever, while wages and incomes for a lot of families have barely budged. and to me families are working harder than ever just to keep up. so as i said at the state of union address a few weeks back, our job is to reverse those trends. we got to build an economy that works for everybody. we've got to restore opportunity for all people so that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, you can get ahead if you work hard and you are responsible. and so i laid out an opportunity
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agenda that has four parts. number one, good jobs that pay good wages and manufacture in energy and innovation and infrastructure. number two, train folks with a skills they need to get those jobs, something that your sender, al franken, is doing great work on every single day. he cares a lot about that job training issue. [applause] number three, guaranteeing every child has access to a world-class education. [applause] and, number four, making sure that hard work is rewarded with wages you can live on, and savings you can retire on, and health care you can count on. that's what we're fighting for. [applause] minnesota is helping to lead the way on these issues. your state legislature is poised to raise your minimum wage this year. in my state of union address, i
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call for a new women's economic agenda. it's actually a family economic agenda. equal pay for equal work, paid sick leave and more. and there are leaders in your state legislature that are working hard at this, because they know when women succeed, america succeeds. so on all these issues, we reaching out to members of congress, looking to see if they're willing to work with us on some of these priorities. but what i can also -- but when i also set up a state of the union is, in this year of action, whenever i can partner directly with states or cities or business leaders or civic leaders to act on this opportunity agenda, i'm going to go ahead and do it. he can't wait. we've got to move. we've got to get things going.
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too many families are counting on it. [applause] so yesterday, i launched new hubs to attract 21st century manufacturing jobs to america. and today, i'm here to launch a new competition for 21st century infrastructure and the jobs that come with it, because any opportunity agenda begins with creating more good jobs. and one of the fastest and best ways to create good jobs is by rebuilding america's infrastructure. our roads, our bridges, our ills, our ports, our airports, our schools, our power grids. we've got a lot to do out there, and w we've got to put folks to work. [applause] one of the most difficult things about the financial crisis we went through was the housing bubble bursting, and
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construction workers were hammered harder than just about anybody. and while we've got the unemployment rate for construction workers almost in half since 2010, too many are still looking for jobs at a time when we've got so much that we could put them to work on rebuilding. we've got ports that aren't ready for the next generation of supertankers. we've got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for medicare. [laughter] everybody knows, and nobody knows better than minnesotans, when we've gone through a winter like this, roads are wrecked, full of potholes all across the country. [applause] now, other countries are not waiting to rebuild their infrastructure. they are trying out build a house today so they can out -- so they can out computers to
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more. as a percentage of gdp, countries like china, germany, they are spending about twice what we're spending in order to build infrastructure because they know that if they have the fastest trains on the planet or the highest rated airports or the busiest, most efficient ports that businesses will go there. but we don't want businesses to go there. we want them to come here to minnesota a. [applause] we want them to come here to united states of america, and that means the this airports and the best roads and the best trained should be right here in america. [applause] at a time when companies are saying they intend to hire more people this year, we need to make that decision easier for them. and we can create jobs at the same time, rebuilding our transportation system, our power grids, our communications networks, all the things that commerce relies on and that help
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get workers to those jobs. so the bottom line is there's work to be done, workers ready to do it. rebuilding our infrastructure is vital to business. it creates good paying jobs that, by the way, cannot be outsourced. this is one of congress' major responsibilities, helping states and cities fund new infrastructure projects. [applause] and part of the reason i focus on this is congress has an important deadline coming up. if congress doesn't finish a transportation bill by the end of the summer, we could see construction projects stopped in their tracks, machines sitting idle, workers off the job. so next week i'm going to send congress a budget that funds rebuilding our transportation infrastructure in a more responsible way by doing it over
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four years, which gives cities and states and private investors the certainty they need to plan major projects. projects like repairing essential highways and bridges, building new transit systems in fast-growing cities and communities so folks a little bit and get to work and school every day and spend less time sitting in traffic. [applause] and we're going to have to construct smarter, more resilient transportation systems that can withstand the worst impacts of climate change, like bigger surges of water that we've seen in recent floods. so all told, my transportation budget will support millions of jobs nationwide. and we will pay for these investments in part by sampling the tax code. we're going to close wasteful tax loopholes, lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs at home, stop rewarding companies for sending jobs to
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other countries, use the money we save in this transition to create good jobs with good wages rebuilding america. it makes sense of. [applause] it makes sense. now, i'll be honest with you, there are leaders in both parties who are willing to reach across the aisle in congress when it comes to american infrastructure. they know how important it is. and infrastructure didn't used to be a partisan issue, shouldn't be democrat or republican. everybody uses roads, everybody uses ports, airports. unfortunately, time and again over the past few years there have been some republicans in congress who refused to act on commonsense proposals that will create jobs and grow our economy. is not that they are, i guess they don't like roads, they just don't want to pay for them. it doesn't work that way. you've got to come up with the way to get these projects going. so while congress is deciding what is going to do next i'm
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just going to go ahead and do what i can to create more good jobs. and that's why i came here to saint paul. [applause] because this project symbolizes what's possible. union depot was renovated and expanded with the help of what we call tiger grants. these are competitive grants that we created as part of the recovery act, also known as the stimulus, which actually worked despite what everybody claims. [applause] so the idea is, if a city or state comes up with a plan to modernize transportation infrastructure that will have a significant impact on economic activity, and if they line up other sources of funding to help pay for, they can win a tiger
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grant and the federal government becomes a partner with these local communities. so far, these grants have given a boost to 270 infrastructure projects across all 50 states. and you hard secretary foxx talk about, these grants are helping cities like l.a. and states like north carolina, and they help you rebuild this depot into a hub that will bring different modes of transportation together under one roof instead of scattered across the city. amtrak is going to be here. the new metro green line will be here. bus lines will be your. [applause] -- will be here. and i just had a chance to take a look at some of those spiffy new trains. [laughter] they are nice. and they are energy efficient. they're going to be reliable.
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you can get from one downtown to the other in a little over 30 minutes instead of when it's snowing being in traffic for two hours. [applause] the trains were made in california, which meant folks were put to work here in the united states building them. [applause] and here's the best part of it. not only have you made a more efficient transportation system, cutting down commutes, saving on gas, reducing carbon pollution, but this depot has held -- has also helped to boost economic development in lower town st. paul. [applause] just across the street the old downtown post office building is becoming apartments and shops. all told, more than 4000 jobs
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were created for this project. [applause] and we are seeing businesses crop up and new development crop up all along the line. so everybody is winning. and in part because of some flexibility that we showed during the planning process, the line is also going to stop in some poor neighborhoods that oftentimes have difficulty getting to the places where there are jobs. [applause] so it's going to help folks who are willing to work hard, trying to get into the middle class, it helps them get access, helps people get access to opportunity that, up until this point, had a tough time. so we know this works. today, we're kicking off the next round of competition for tiger grants. mayors and governors, city councils, state legislatures, all of you who are watching here
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today, if you've got a great idea for your city or your state, then let us know your plan. it will encourage economic activity and support local businesses and help put people to work, then your country is interested in partnering with you. and tiger grants aren't the only way we can help cities like st. paul and minneapolis rebuild their infrastructure. you've got, federal funding helped to build the green line. that's going to make it easier than ever to travel between the two cities. you've got more than 5000 construction workers from all over minnesota helping to build a. nearly 200 police officers, trained operators armed maintenance workers are being hired. that's not counting all the jobs are being traded from the offices and apartment buildings that are going to be built along the line. because the trains stop at neighborhoods that have access to public transportation, those folks are going to work. and all of this can be duplicated all across the country.
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but, unfortunately, funding for these projects are going to be in jeopardy unless congress passes this new transportation bill. so i want everybody to understand. now, the good news is keith ellison, baby, they are already onboard. [applause] they know this needs to happen. al franken, all over it. some democrats and republican are already working together to make sure transportation doesn't, funding doesn't run out. and we are seeing some glimmers of hope because this new round of tiger grants was a result of bipartisan cooperation. that's what needs to happen when were together. but we're going to need your voice is telling a story around the country about why this is so important. roads and bridges should not be a partisan issue. more americans should have access to the kind of efficient, affordable transit you're going to have with the greenline.
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[applause] there's no faster way or better way for congress to create jobs right now than to grow our economy right now and have a positive impact on our economy for decades than if we start more projects and finish more projects like this one. let's create more good jobs, old smarter schools, better airports, faster railways, better broadband networks. let's educate our kids and a workers better. let's rebuild an economy where everybody was willing to work hard has a chance to get ahead. this is the beginning can not the end. we've got a lot more rail we've got to lay. we've got a lot more roads we've got to travel. let's get going, minnesota. thank you. god bless you. god bless the united states of america. [applause]
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♪ >> this was from yesterday. today he will be spent the day at the white house. at 325 confusion the present will deliver remarks on his my brother's keeper initiative. it's a mentoring and job training program for young men of color. live coverage of the president's remarks on the u.s. and is about the devil and for the day continued work on a $21 billion measure that would replace and expand funding for veterans benefits. those benefits will be paid from savings due to the drawdown of the wars in iraq and afghanistan a number of republicans are opposed to this day for. the ranking them on the
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veterans' affairs committee richard burr of north carolina has tried offer an alternative pay for that would find savings in the va department. his alternative includes a provision seeking new sanctions on iran. votes including a possible final passage vote scheduled to start at 2 p.m. today. the general on the nomination of mike o'connor to be deputy secretary of the interior. and now live to the senate floor. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, we find joy in obeying your commands. with all our hearts, we thank you for your guidance that keeps us on the road of abundant living. today, make our lawmakers instruments of your providence,
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measuring up to the challenges of these momentous times. as they seek to honor your great name, transform their common days into transfiguring and redemptive moments. cleanse the fountains of their hearts from all that defiles, making them fit vessels to be used for your honor. guide today's deliberations, debates, and decisions. we pray in your holy name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting
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the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c., february 27, 2014. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable brian schatz, a senator from the state of hawaii, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i move to proceed to calendar number 309, child care development block grant act. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion. the clerk: motion to proceed to the consideration of s. 1086,
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a bill to reauthorize and improve the child care and development block grant act of 1990, and for other purposes. mr. reid: mr. president following my remarks and those of the republican leader, we'll be in a period of morning business for an hour. the majority will control the first half, the republicans the final half. following that morning business the senate will resume consideration of the veterans benefits bill. i filed cloture on the substitute amendment and the underlying bill as a result a filing deadline for first-degree amendment is 10:30 this morning and for second-degree amendment it's 1:30. at 2:00 there will be a series of votes in relation to the veterans bill. we expect to consider the nomination of michael connor to be deputy secretary of the interior today sometime. mr. president, there are lots of issues on which democrats and republicans will always disagree. that's okay. but historically democrats and
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republicans have been able to agree on one thing. congress should do everything in its power to protect those who risk their lives to save our country and to protect our country. i had hoped that this work period would be more bipartisan, the senate could tackle issues and would be able to stop the political games we've seen so often from the minority. that's why i scheduled floor time for a bill to expand health care and veterans armed forces, a very, very comprehensive bill worked on by the veterans' committee and led by senator sanders. the bill is loaded, as senator sanders and i discussed yesterday, in detail with republican provisions that he put in the bill. democrats and republicans alike should be able to support this bill, which is sponsored, as i've indicated, by senator sanders from vermont. democrats were willing to work
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with republican colleagues to consider relevant amendments to this legislation. so it is disappointing, but sadly, mr. president, not surprising when republicans almost immediately injected base partisan politics into a debate over a bill that should, should, should be bipartisan. insisting on unrelate amendment on iran that they knew would kill the bill. i don't know what they say to the 26 veterans groups, millions of veterans really supported this bill; did everything they could to help the chairman of the committee, the junior senator from vermont, move this bill forward. but they did it. on an unrelated amendment on iran that they knew would kill the bill. i don't know all the reasons, mr. president, but we had a number of speeches, especially one from dr. coburn, the junior senator from oklahoma, who came
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to the floor and had questions about the bill. i didn't agree with all of his assertions, but he has a right to dispute what was in the bill, and he wanted to offer amendments to the bill. we agreed he should be able to offer amendments to the bill. but the republicans, i guess, are in turmoil internally and didn't want him to be able to offer any amendments that they might have to vote for or vote against. so they figured a way to do it, just kill the bill. i hope all the veterans groups have witnessed this contortion the republicans have done to defeat this bill, because it will be defeated. that was their aim from the very beginning. like our support for veterans, the senate iran sanctions policy has historically been solidly bipartisan. the idea of obtaining a nuclear
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weapon for iran is unthinkable. the democrats and republicans have always worked together on this policy. iran should not have nuclear capability. we all agree on that, mr. president. i hope so, at least. i know on this side of the aisle we do. but it seems republicans are trying to erase that history and politicize an issue that historically has been above partisanship. they're trying now, the republicans, to mislead the american public by saying a bipartisan support supports moving forward with new sanctions right now. of course it's wrong. absolutely, of course it's wrong. in fact, many senators, including some who have cosponsored the new sanctions bill, believes we should not move forward with the bill at this time or on this important bill for veterans. there should not be an effort -- uses an effort to kill this veterans bill. but in addition to that,
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mr. president, ten committee chairs wrote a letter to me saying don't do anything now. they are some of the biggest supporters of israel there is. but we also have israel's strongest support -- aipac -- they also agree that it is not the time now to bring a sanctions package to the floor. aipac was unequivocal in its request for delay on additional sanctions. in fact, this is what they said -- and i quote -- "stopping the iranian nuclear program should rest on bipartisan support and there should not be a vote at this time on the measure." close quote. many veteran groups have also come out against, including the veterans amendment, on this bill, including virtually every veterans organization, but especially the american legion
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and the veterans of foreign wars. consisting of millions and millions of veterans. we also have iraq and afghanistan veterans america saying don't do it at this time. we need help. we, the veterans, need help. this legislation would give us that help. here's specifically what the american legion said. i quote -- "sanctions against iran have no place in the united states senate debate over legislation that aims to expand health care, educational opportunities, employment and other benefits for veterans." close quote. but iran should make no mistake, mr. president. we know that. if they fail to comply with the current interim agreement or fail to make progress towards a comprehensive agreement, congress will act without hesitation to pass additional sanctions. we've said that time and time again. that decision will be made in the interest of our national security, not on a partisan ploy. there's too much at stake to play politics with our nation's
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iran policy. likewise, republicans should stop putting american veterans at risk and help democrats pass this crucial legislation on the floor. but, mr. president, shame on the republicans for bringing base politics into a bill to help the veterans. what i've learned, that the republicans here in the senate have many different ways of saying no. but as always, just plain obstruction. i'm sorry to say, again, on a bill to help millions of veterans.
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: republican leader. tphoeup today is an important -- mr. mcconnell: today is an important day. it's the last day of the so-called comment period, when americans can officially register their opinions on the i.r.s.'s latest effort to suppress free speech. so far nearly 100,000 comments have come through. 100,000. nearly everyone i've seen is opposed. just to put things in perspective, that's basically the largest number of comments ever, ever for a rule like this. even the head of the i.r.s. said he saw more comments on this proposal than ever before on any
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regulation. and that was 70,000 comments ago. 70,000 comments ago. the commissioner of the i.r.s. said this is the most comments he'd seen on any regulation. so people are surely making their voices heard, and loudly. and the message they're broadcasting is pretty clear. leave the first amendment alone. leave it alone. get out of the censorship and harassment business. stick to the job you're actually supposed to be doing, and let's be clear, the folks who are logging opinions like these run straight across the political spectrum. labor unions are upset. business organizations are upset. civil liberties activists are upset. taxpayer groups are upset.
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grass roots groups right across the political map are upset at what they view is an aon their first -- an assault on the first amendment rights. one said the new regulation would -- quote -- "impose serious burdens on free speech and hinder the democratic process it serves. an official with the aclu described the i.r.s. proposed regulation as creating -- quote -- "the worst of all worlds." end quote. the proposal he wrote could seriously chill legitimate issue advocacy from nonprofits on both the right and the left and would disproportionately affect small, poor nonprofits that cannot afford the legal counsel to guarantee compliance. and here's what one labor union had to say -- quote -- "given the history of misuse and abuse of the i.r.s. immense powers in
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the not so distant past, it is disappointing and disturbing that this fundamental principle has been forgotten and that this regulation is the i.r.s. proposed response to its recent missteps." so left, right, center understand what a threat this rule poses to the most cherished of civil liberties. they also realize a group the administration favors today could easily become a group the i.r.s. targets tomorrow. that's why this fight is so important, why it's so inappropriate to hand this kind of power to any administration. i don't care what party the president is in. and that's why i along with several of my colleagues recently sent a letter to the new commissioner of the i.r.s. explaining in some detail just why the agency's proposal was such a bad idea, a terrible idea. in that letter, we also reminded
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the commissioner of something else too. the ball's in his court on this one. the ball's in his court. he could stop this rule tomorrow and given the comments he made about restoring integrity to the i.r.s. when the senate voted to confirm him, that's exactly what we expect out of him. in fact, that's essentially the mandate on which he was confirmed. so here's the choice before him: this is the choice the commissioner of the i.r.s. has. he can either fulfill that mandate to the american people by restoring integrity to an agency that they no longer trust, he can be a hero and say "no" to those who are pressuring him to crack down on the first amendment rights of ordinary citizens. that's what the i.r.s. commissioner told richard nixon. he said, i'm not going to cooperate with your effort to target your enemy.
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or he can serve political masters over in the white house. he can implement regulations that will erode our most fundamental civil liberties, regulations that would almost certainly lead to the harassment of sceiviv conservative groups d quite possiblil possibly the haf liberal groups in the future. unions in particular have a lot to fear from this proposal. so, look, now's the time to act. america's free speech advocates are standing up with one voice. thousands upon thousands made their voices heard in the opinion process. millions more, i suspect, are right there with them in spirit. some who oppose this rule picked the president in the last election. some voted for his opponent. some may have even cast a ballot for another person entirely. but p what unites us is our love of the liberties that have allowed americans to disagree
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civilly for centuries. commissioner, do the right thing. stop this regulation. now, mr. president, on another issue, later today the senate will vote on motions related to s. 1982, a bill that was not considered in committee, greatly expands spending without any realistic offset, and would vastly overwhelm the veterans administration health care system. it's shameful that senate democrats would seek to score political points by rushing to the floor a bill the committee did not consider and could have otherwise been handled in a bipartisan manner through the regular order. unfortunately, it's become standard practice around here for the majority to pursue
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partisan legislation in a sort of take-it-or-leave-it manner. it is unsurprising that nobody other than the majority leader and the committee chairman has been allowed the opportunity to amend the bill. senators on both sides have been shut out of the legislative process. for example, we can't even vote on the ranking member's veterans amendment, legislation i support that will not add to the deficit. i amal cosponsor of this legislation, which provides -- i am a cosponsor of this legislation, which provides advanced appropriations for v.a. mandatory accounts, improves services and benefits for victims of military sexual trauma, enhances benefits for survivors and dependents of deceased or disabled veterans, encourages the hiring of veterans, and unlike the sanders' bill is fully paid for. as for the iran sanctions language in the burr amendment,
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as i noted yesterday, there is significant disagreement between the president and many members from both parties in both the house and the senate concerning the best way to prevent iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. the iranian regime has carried out its best attempt at a charm offensive to forestall not only the implementation but the legislative consideration of even tougher sanctions, should the regime fail to fulfill its commitments, according to november's interim agreement. the interim agreement included a joint plan of action, agreed to by iran. according to that joint plan of action, the u.s. administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the president and the congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions. the agreement is spelled out clearly to the iranians. acting consistent with our
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respective roles, the iranians can read the plain language and understand that this congress did not agree to renounce additional sanctions. we didn't agree to do that. yet the majority leader is determined not to allow a single vote on the kirk-menendez bill, which could be fully debated by this body prior to a vote. we'll not have that debate, apparently, nor will we vote on any amendments related to the bill before us. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business for one hour with senatorsment prosecuted to speak therein -- with senators permitted tpermitted to speak tr up to ten minutes each, with the majority controlling the first half of the time.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. mr. heinrich: mr. president, lest we forget, hundreds of thousands of men and women are still serving in iraq and afghanistan. they all volunteered n return -l volunteered. in return for their volunteering, we made a number of promises. i'm a proud cosponsor of the legislation being debated this week, s. 1982, which is perhaps the most significant veterans legislation to come before congress in many years.
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this legislation has the strong support of virtually every veterans organization in the country, including the american legion, the veterans of foreign wars, the disabled american veterans, the vietnam veterans of america, and the iraq and afghanistan veterans of america. these organizations support the bill because it renews our promise to our veterans. i am very fortunate to respect the state of -- to represent the state of new mexico, which has one of the highest rates of military volunteerism in the nation. new mexico, a small state of 2 million people, is home to more than 170,000 veterans. 2,000 new mexicans endured the baton death march during world war ii. and new mexico is home to many of our nation's finest military installations. kirkland air force base, the air force's sixth-largest base with
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over 100 partners and a strategic role in ensuring our nation's savings secure, and reliable -- safe, secure, and reliable nuclear weapons complex. canon air force barricks the --, halloman air force base, and white sands missile range, the largest military installation in the nation with a testing and training environment that is unmatched anywhere -- anywhere in the world. additionally, new mexico's national guard employs roughly 3,800 full- and part-time military earn he will. collectively, there are 18,000 military personnel serving today in new mexico. volunteerism isn't simply a career choice for new mexicans. it is a way of life. it is ingrained in our state's rich -- it is ingrained in our
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state's rich history of putting country first. the bill before us renews our promise to all of them. to all of those who are willing to day down their life for their country. it provides benefits to all generations of veterans and their families, and it eliminates the cost-of-living adjustment penalty on military retirees. the legislation incorporates bills and ideas from both democrats and republicans to address the disability claims backlog, including one of my own. across new mexico i have heard from too many veterans who are frustrated with the delays they experience in receiving their disability benefits. last june senator heller of nevada and i introduced the veterans benefits claims faster filing act, which requires the secretary of veterans affairs to ensure that every veteran is informed of the vast differences
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in times for processing compensation claims, when filing a fully developed claim versus a nonfully developed paper claim. it takes o, on average, 113 days for veterans to receive a final disability rating if they file a claim online. compare that to over a year if they file a nonfully developed paper claim. filing claims online through the fully developed claims program accelerates turnaround times and makes processing more efficient. doing so also provides an additional year of retroactive benefits as an incentive to veterans who file a fully developed claim. the faster filing act and other legislative efforts represent a collective effort to reduce the backlog and ensure that our veterans receive the benefits that they've earned. i'm also proud to have cosponsored legislation
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introduced by my colleague from alaska, senator begich, to provide advanced appropriations for all -- all -- v.a. spending accounts. this would ensure that -- that veterans receive uninterrupted beinaccess to the benefits theye earned even during the midst of a government shutdown, like the one that so irresponsibly occurred last fall. it is unacceptable that veterans would fall victim to the partisan politics of a government shutdown and the legislation today includes a fix to ensure that that never happens again. the bill also helps put veterans back to work. it reauthorizes a two-year extension for the veteran veters training assistance program, which retrains veterans for high-demand occupations. and it requires the v.a. to establish a three-year program to provide young veterans under 30 the opportunity to serve in
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an internship that would pair veterans with private-sector employers so that they can gain civilian work experience. the bill expands the v.a. tion successful compare -- the v.a.'s successful caregiver program. in a similar manner, as post-9/11 veterans. america's servicemen and women consider the nation's principles important enough to defend them against all enemies and at any cost and they volunteer to do so. but volunteerism only works if we fulfill our promises, mr. president. few sacrifices are as selfless as those our military men and women make in defense of this nation. we owe them more than a debt of gratitude. we owe them action in both our words and our deeds. mr. president, this bill backs
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up our words with action. it fulfills our promises. i hope we see it pass this week, and i would withdraw the remaining portion of my time. thank you. mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, on tuesday i came to the floor to talk about one issue that we are rarely divide on in this buil building. that is the duty to keep the promise we made to all those who have honorably serve ed i honorr nation's armed forces. the legislation intufs really the test for -- before us is really the test for us. can we put politicsside to skep that promise? can we show these heroes that despite our differences we will work as diligently towards getting them the benefits and care they've earned as they have
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worked for our nation? mr. president, now, unfortunately, some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are indicating that they would now prefer to put politics over promises under the guise of an alternative to this bill. mr. president, given what we have seen recently on the other -- on other bills supported, by the way, by a majority of americans, we shouldn't be surprised. but i truly did think and hope that this bill would be a different story because it contains ideas from both democrats and republicans and because this is an issue that has historically united this body and because we have all pledged to do whatever it takes on behalf of our veterans. but once again where we are today is some of our colleagues have decided to use unrelated issues to sour this entire effort for our veterans and
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their families who stand to benefit the most from this comprehensive legislation that we're offering. and with their alternative bill, they have now stripped -- have proposed to strip away life-changing programs for veterans who are looking to take the skills they learned on the battlefield to the boardrooms. they have with this alternative decided to halt the expansion of opportunities for our caregivers who are integral to the health among these and many other examples of the republican effort to derail this landmark legislation, there is one issue that i find most egregious, and that is their shameful opposition to provide our catastrophically wounded heroes with access to reproductive services that they so desperately need to start a family. mres


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